Recipe: Unforgettable French Onion Soup
My mornings in Seattle were ones I’m sure many of you are familiar with. Awake by jarring alarm after not getting enough sleep. Snooze said alarm for 30-40 minutes, thereby neither waking up nor getting any further quality sleep. Groggily fumble for iPhone and while barely awake begin checking emails and deleting pesky Groupon promotions that seem impossible to unsubscribe from.
See annoying/frustrating/alarming email and have heart rate begin to rise. Procrastinate further by checking Facebook, suddenly feeling depressed about own life as everyone else’s virtual snapshot version appears to be way more [Insert Enviable Adjective Here] (fun, exciting, glamorous, sexy, easy).
Stumble out of bed and head downstairs, while clutching iPhone and continuing to delete and forward emails with thumb. Realize it is 7:10 and were hoping to leave at 7a. Begin frantic scramble to throw on some outfit (fashion be damned), forgo breakfast, and battle into traffic while still checking said iPhone device.
A week into my Parisien adventure, this city has already taught me many things. I have no doubt the list will continue to grow, but for now, the top three:
1) Breath: I can be a bit fastidious (read: neurotic) about being on time. So neurotic in fact that a dear friend actually asked me to stop texting her when I was going to be 10 minutes late or less, saying that it created unnecessary stress in her life and made her afraid of ever being late to me. And so here, I am trying to create a distinction for myself of those activities where punctuality is important and those where allowing myself to linger outside a store window crammed with the most delectable bites of bliss might be just the ticket.
2) Unplug: While my Tech Debacle of 2014 ended well it has left me terrified of somehow breaking Le WiFi in the apartment or accidentally racking up ridiculous charges on my mysterious French phone. And so I’m finding myself taking a step back from technology to look up and engage with the real world around me. Instead of checking the weather ap, I fling open the windows and stick my head out into the courtyard perhaps to be pattered with rain or see a sliver of blue sky.
3) Rest: I am quickly coming to the realization that in my “normal” life I exist in a state of nearly constant sleep deprivation. And I’m not alone, over 1/3 of Americans do not get enough daily rest. Even as I write this that little voice inside me is starting to make a counter argument for why it’s simply not possible to sleep seven or eight hours a night. But for most of us (and true apologies to the new mamas out there…my heart goes out to you!) it is possible. For me, it is simply a re-allocation of priorities. Here, instead of watching the newest episode of Scandal or spending an hour torturously scanning Facebook I curl up with a book and call it a night.
Will I manage to stay consistent with all these for this whole adventure? Je ne sais pas. Will I be able to translate them 100% to my life back in Seattle upon return? Quand les poules auront des dents. (Never! literally: “when chickens will have teeth“). But for now…I’m learning my lesson from sweet Paris.
Unforgettable French Onion Soup or Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée
Craving French Onion Soup, this afternoon I set out for Au Pied de Cochon in the 1st arrondissement, which opened in 1947 and so the rumor goes has never shut its doors. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, this brasserie is just a little kitchy, but somehow because it’s French…it works. Rich leather booths hold pouting French women catching glances of themselves in the mirrored wall and old men talking to themselves alike.
Their soupe à l’oignon gratinée, for which they are famous, is exactly how I like it: A generous and crusty topping of cheese hides a piping hot, rich meaty broth with deeply caramelized onions and thick slices of baguette. Enjoy paired with a very cold glass of rosé.
- 1/2 cup salted butter
- 5 large yellow onions, peeled, sliced into rings, and quartered
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 bottle red wine (something with a big flavor like a Bordeaux)
- 1/4 cup vermouth or dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 quarts beef broth, homemade is best
- 1 baguette, sliced
- 1/2 pound grated Gruyere
- Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 35 minutes.
- Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are getting dry, about 5 minutes. Add the vermouth and cook another 2 minutes until liquid has cooked off. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
- Dust the onions with the flour and stir 2-3 times. Turn the heat down to medium low so flour doesn’t burn, and cook for 10 minutes to remove raw flour taste.
- Add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for at least 10 more minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
- When you’re ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls, top each with 2 slices of bread and finish generously with cheese. Broil 3-5 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbling.